Someone asked me this evening if our teaching is a special teaching which was transmitted from Buddha, or if Buddha's enlightenment is some special enlightenment, which no one else could attain before Buddha or after Buddha.
What is the relationship between the usual teaching and our special teaching? This is the point of the question.
We are studying right now the teaching of Buddhism in general. Not only the teaching of Zen but also the teaching of all schools of Buddhism. We do not study each one of them, but my lecture is concentrated on some important teaching which we have.
We have a lineage from Buddha to us. The Chinese first patriarch Bodhidharma—from Buddha to the first Chinese master. And from Bodhidharma to Dogen Zenji we count 51, and those names are clearly written. And in our lineage we have 80, or 81, or 85 masters’ names written. Those are the masters who transmitted the true spirit of Buddhism. And this is also the essential point of Buddhism. Because it is essential teaching we call it special teaching, but by special we do not mean some different teaching from other teachings. So, if you think our teaching is completely different from other teachings of other schools, it is to misunderstand.
And Buddha's enlightenment, of course, happened to Buddha after studying many schools of many kinds of religion at that time. And after trying hard, every possible way, he found his own way of practice. So, in this sense, it is quite different from other religions. It is so. But why it is special, or how his teaching differs from other teachings, it should be understood completely.
A characteristic of Buddhism is that Buddhism is a teaching in which it is possible to include various kinds of understanding, all kinds of understanding—and right or wrong, good or bad, lofty or common. Buddhism has some possibility to put every teaching in right order, and to have understanding of each experience or knowledge which we have—not only religion, but also scientific knowledge, by including all kinds of culture and efforts of human beings. This is the most important characteristic of Buddhism.
It is not the best teaching in comparison to other teachings, but it is the teaching which will give meaning to every teaching. Which will give deeper understanding of various religions. Which will give proper use of various research. Or which will organize our various cultural efforts.
This is the characteristic of Buddhism. Especially Zen is beyond even all those human efforts, and yet Zen will give right meaning to our human activity. This is our enlightenment, transmitted from Buddha to us. And there were no teachers before Buddha or after Buddha like him. This is the difference between Buddhism and other schools.
So, if you compare Buddhism to other teachings, you cannot find out truly why we believe in our way. Because it is not a matter of comparison, and it is not a matter of which is better, and it is not a matter of lofty teaching or common teaching. Our teaching is lofty teaching, of course, but on the other hand it is very common teaching.
And our teaching is teaching how to attain enlightenment and how to help others and how to help ourselves. And our teaching is, at the same time, how to help others and how to forget all that we have [laughs], how to be common. So, our teaching is very upward and very downward, at the same time. Our teaching is not a matter of lofty teaching or common teaching. It is not a matter of deep or shallow teaching. This is the main difference between Buddhism and other teachings.
Usually, I find people are seeking for something good only—something lofty only, but they are not interested in something common or something usual. But we do not stay at the stage of Buddha because true Buddha is always someone who helps ourselves and who helps others too.
In this way, we have been practicing our way from Buddha to us. Sometimes, many teachers will say, Zen is a special teaching, or Buddha attained enlightenment, that Buddha is the only one who found the ultimate truth which no one can attain. But what it means is not a matter of good or bad.
So, if you believe in Buddhism, you have no problem of what kind of religion you should believe in. All religion you believe in, at the same time, will be Buddhism, if you understand it properly. But if you cling to one teaching only, forgetting all the rest of the teachings, or if you cling to your teaching just because your teaching is a lofty teaching, then you will lose the true meaning of the teaching. Even though your religion is good, if you think your religion is good and the rest of the teachings are not so good, that is not good, you know. It means you ignore [laughs] the rest of the truth and are clinging to your own religion. You have no eyes to see, and no ears to hear of others' actual experience of religion.
But if you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear what others may say, all religions will be your religion. When you have this kind of ears to listen to various religions, then you are a Buddhist.
In this way we understand our way. Especially in Zen we put emphasis on the practice in each moment. Moment after moment we continue this kind of practice, and moment after moment the meaning of the teaching, or content of the teaching, will develop according to the circumstances. And our practice in each moment will include every teaching possible. This is our practice of Zen.
All right, if you understand in this way, there's no problem of comparing our religion to other teachings, and which religion you should believe in—or whether or not you should accept other teachings.
And another question which I should answer is: during our training period of two months, including our training after training period, we had various experiences, which sometimes were good for you and in which sometimes you did not feel so good. But anyway, you found something new. You had some new experiences.
Now, "what kind of experience will be the best experience?" will be your problem, and actually if some special experience was good, you want to continue that kind of experience or state of mind which you have had.
This is in the future, you know. Many students who attained enlightenment under some teacher will say, “I attained enlightenment one year ago or two years ago. But I want to have this kind of experience always, or I want to have that kind of experience, whenever I want to have it. But since then, I haven't had that kind of experience again.” [Laughs.] “What is wrong with me, or with my practice?”
This kind of question is a question you will have!
Source: 67-10-00 digital audio archive from DC. Problem set. Thanks to audio work by AW, transcribed March 2012 by Judy Gilbert. Further preparation to post by DC. More editing and transcription by CM October 2012 using the enhanced audio. Verbatim version by Wendy Pirsig and Peter Ford 8/2022 based on Engage Wisdom audio. Lightly edited for readability by Peter Ford (6/2023).